Thursday, July 17, 2014

Protect Your Ass Judaism

I am a liberal. My Jewish values are proudly expressed in "care for the needy, mend the world and work for equality regardless of our differences." These  core values , I label as Jewish, have made me a loyal Democrat. In 2008, 78% of my fellow Jews also voted Democratic. Since Roosevelt, the majority of Jews have  voted for the Democratic party even when groups of similar financial and social status have switched to Republican. Do we stay Democratic because we vote the way our parents did, or as I suspect, do we vote left because the value of helping those in need trumps self interest. Help those in Need, is an honorable brand of American Jewry. And today,  I wonder if our brand is getting in the way of another honorable brand of Judaism?

Protect Your Ass Judaism (PYAJ). We need to --without apology--yet with responsibility, protect our own asses.

Rockets are coming  into Beer Sheva, Netivot, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem from the south to the center and to the north of Israel. The sound of a siren starts like an innocent cat or a motorcycle but grows as a life alert "you have 90 seconds to find a bomb shelter." Less discerning as an American, my heart skipped with the sound of each cat and real siren.

Within a minute we heard BOOM BOOM. The Iron Dome works. Again, BOOM BOOM.  Prayer: please keep working.

To put an end to this, to HELP THOSE IN NEED, we ask: "Who is coming to the table to discuss 'How do we live in Peace?'" Israel said yes. Egypt is ready. Abbas is ready, and the leaders launching the rockets say no.

Hamas leadership says no to cease fire
I've been reading Righteous Victims, A history of the Zionist Arab Conflict 1881-2001, by Benny Morris. The history I'm reading is clear in my mind. It rubs against CNN headlines (YNET NEWS much better to follow events).

One vivid image I have from the historical reading comes from the years of the late 1930's and 40s.  In the same decades when European Jews were dying in gas chambers,  Jews in Palestine were gathering weapons, growing the Palmah and the Haganah to protect themselves. Could Ben Gurion and Weitzman have sat down with the Nazis and negotiated a settlement? Don't murder our people and we'll take them off your hands to live in the desert. The answer is obvious.

Jews learned how to fight and farm with a PYAJ policy.  They hid guns from the British under floor boards and built a social infrastructure so Jews could live as opposed to be pushed into gas chambers.

While in Israel this week I spoke with Jews from France-6,000 French are making Aliyah this year because of heated anti-semitism. I spoke to Jews from Spain--who said they are afraid to admit to being Jewish on the street and hide their identities. Jews from Argentina spoke about increased security because they fear bombings.

Awake from the bubble, I thought. History is here again. Oh this bubble bursting goes against my liberal 'we are all one leanings.'

In the fog of who is right and wrong Israel and the Jewish people are not saints. Mistakes are being made along the way. Like when right wing Israeli extremist brutally killed the Arab teen Mohammed Abu Khdeir. Their cruelty was out of  hate and sickness, not protection.

With our core values as American Jews we can ask how to help innocent Palestinians who are caught in the crossfire? The poor are pawns. We should do all that is possible to help them (e.g. knock on the roof missiles, leaflets and calls to leave, humanitarian aide). I don't think for one minute Israel intends to, or benefits, from the killing of innocents.  Can they do better? I'm sure, and anticipate they will learn to do that.

And with as loud of a voice, with a determination that our survival, the survival of our cousins and friends, our people, I say, Israel can and should put an end to relentless rocket attacks coming in to Israel on children who are trying to play in summer camp, parents driving to work and families eating a meal in their kitchens.

The role of diaspora Jews matters. It has since the 1880's and continues today. Heart strings get tugged when Ben Widerman on CNN says, "look at this home that has been destroyed in Gaza because the Cease fire has fallen apart. He doesn't say, "The cease fire that Israel accepted and that Hamas rejected."

Before I went to Israel,  I wrote
"I hate to talk about Israel because it becomes a yelling match of right and wrong." And so I demur.

 Yesterday, my son said, "Mom if people were speaking out against the rights of homosexuals, and even if there were screaming, wouldn't you speak up?"


My other son just said, "Can you write about politics on your blog?"

"I don't know, but it feels chicken not to."

So I'm speaking up.

I'm saying as clearly as I can I'm proud of my ability to be part of a HELP THOSE IN NEED JUDAISM.  And I'm as clearly saying, now is a time to express that Israel has the right to protect and prevent continued bombardment. If it is productive to think of ways to make a better peace, let's engage in that. Let's sit at a table and ask these questions and work together for action to protect all innocents.

PROTECT YOUR ASS JUDAISM is not contradictory to Help those in Need Judaism. It is an existential necessity that we shouldn't shy away from when we sit comfortably and safely in our homes. Your thoughts?